our new workout
(thanks to master cinematographer Natasha)
Last week Bubba learned about bike rides, thereby combining two of my favorite things and giving him a whole new and fun way to exercise. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time but didn’t feel like he was ready for it. But walks have been going great for the past couple weeks, with much less pulling and less reactivity, so one day after work we gave it a shot. Our first try didn’t go so well. He wasn’t sure about the bike and was jumpy and nervous in the beginning. We started by just walking with the bike beside me, then with it between us, then I started scooting along on the bike, giving treats for good behavior along the way. Within a few blocks I was able to ride slowly with him trotting beside me. We started cruising around the neighborhood. I fumbled a little with the leash and the treats before finding a comfortable position. We’d stop over and over again when Bubba would start chewing on his leash or running too fast. At one point after successfully navigating past another dog, he took off chasing a cat into a neighbor’s back yard and I had to let go of the leash and jump off the bike to go catch him. After that incident we rode home and called it a day.
I didn’t want that first experience to be the start and end of it, so we kept at it and the next time out he did much better. One thing that made a big difference was switing to his old harness which the leash clips to on his back rather than at his chest- this keeps the leash from getting caught around his legs. I switched the treats to my left jacket pocket so I can easily grab one and pass it to him on the move. Apparently there are products you can purchase that keep the leash attached but a safe distance from your bike, but I just hold it in my left hand like normal. I can still guide him the same way I would on a walk, and we use all the same commands. If the leash was tied to the bike I would worry more about him taking off and pulling me over. It helps that I’m very comfortable on the bike, too. Most of the time there is no tension on the leash and Bubba heels nicely beside me. Sometimes he pulls a bit to the side, or slows to try to sniff something, but he doesn’t get up ahead and pull. He is great at transitioning on and off the sidewalk, crossing streets, and this morning he was even moving past squirrels without chasing them up trees. We still stop and walk or turn around to avoid close encounters with other dogs. I let him dictate the pace and we go out for about 45 minutes at a time. We stick to quiet neighborhoods and wide sidewalks, and cover a lot more ground than we would on a walk. It’s great exercise for Bubba and he seems to really enjoy it.